Weeks Forty Nine and Fifty- Timing or Know your onions

I was going to write a blog post last week if only to say that I lost a pound at the weigh in but as I started to write I realised I wanted to do some more research.

Last week I tried a new dish where the instruction was to cook sliced onions on the lowest heat possible. The implication was that the onions should look like this:
cooked onions

The recipe said to cook the onions for around an hour (cook for thirty minutes then put the water on for the pasta ) but it took nearer two hours for the onions to be properly cooked.

This made me think about all those recipes which say “fry for five minutes until golden”. I understand that recipe writers don’t want to put people off trying something because it might take a long time to cook but wouldn’t a dish that was undercooked put people off cooking it again?

So I bought a couple of bags of onions, took a day off work and set up an experiment. Let’s see if, nearly thirty years after I left school, I can still remember how to write it up.

Frying Onions
To test various hob settings for frying onions to see if they can be turned golden. This is golden granulated sugar and is the colour I was aiming for:

Brown sugar

The colour to aim for

Halogen hob with six heat settings
Cooker knob
A 24cm Frying pan
5ml syringe
Kitchen timer


Sunflower Oil
Onions diced to roughly 5mm

5ml oil was measured using the syringe and put in the cold frying pan. The pan was then placed on the hob and preheated for one minute. 100g of onions were then added and fried for five minutes stirring every minute.

Heat Setting 1

Heat Setting 1

The onions were raw. They were warm but very little cooking had taken place.

Heat Setting 2

Heat Setting 2

The onions were starting to cook and turn translucent although it would take another five or more minutes to be properly cooked.

Heat Setting 3

Heat Setting 3

The onions were translucent but were still crunchy.

Heat Setting 4

Heat Setting 4

We have colour! But still lots of crunch.

Heat Setting 5

Heat Setting Five

Hmm, they look golden but they are still really crunchy. A Little sweetness coming through.

Heat Setting 6

Heat Setting 6

Oops, a bit too golden? And although they are starting to burn they are still crunchy.


You can fry onions for five minutes until golden brown but they won’t be cooked properly.

After the experiment I timed how long it took for 100g of onions to turn golden on heat setting 3. After twenty minutes they were not only golden but cooked through and nicely sweet. Oddly there are nearly six thousand google results for “fry for five minutes until golden” and six hundred for “fry for twenty minutes until golden”. It looks like expediency wins over taste.

I really wasn’t expecting to lose any weight this week as we have been slightly indulgent. However I have also been pushing myself quite hard when I go swimming and I think this is why I managed to lose two and a half pounds this week.

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6 Responses to Weeks Forty Nine and Fifty- Timing or Know your onions

  1. How Did I Get Here? says:

    Good post! Point of curiosity, what did you do with the onions once had cooked them?

  2. NickyB says:

    Fascinating – and impressive documentation! (Science Teacher NickyB gives 10/10 and a gold star). So that’s why I always ignore those instructions 🙂 Good swimming outcome too … I do love to swim.

    • youfatfoodie says:

      Despite my daughter telling me it was sad to take a day off work just to cook onions I really enjoyed doing it.

      I am really enjoying the swimming at the moment but I don’t think I could manage to swim for so long if I didn’t have a waterproof mp3 player! Doing lengths is so boring especially in a 15m pool

      • How Did I Get Here? says:

        I actually believed your daughter’s exact words were –
        ‘Reading that made me cry!’

  3. Pingback: Week Fifty One – Memory Hole | Fat Foodie's Blog

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